Pruning Roses for Maximum Growth and Bloom
Pruning is one of the tasks which the rose grower must master thoroughly. There is little point in paying good money for and taking care and time to plant them properly if they will be ruined later on by incorrect .
Nor can allbe pruned in the same manner. The treatment most suitable for wichuraiana ramblers of the Dorothy Perkins type, which bear the best blooms on young growth, would be ruinous for many climbers, which flower well on older wood.
Similarly, the hard pruning used when roses are grown for exhibition would spoil the effect of roses used for massed effect in the garden.
Reasons for Pruning Roses
The principal reasons for pruning at all are to concentrate growth upon a limited number of selected shoots, each of which is capable of producing blooms of first-rate quality, and to get rid of old, worn out growth.
Some roses, if left to themselves, would make numerous thin, spindly shoots too weak to bear any but small, but this is less true of modern varieties than of some of the older ones. The growth of all roses tends to loose vigour after 2 to 4 years and needs to be replaced with young growth. This is the natural habit of roses and not a weakness of cultivated varieties.
In a general way, the more severely a branch is cut back the more vigorous will be the new shoots starting from it. The reason for this is that the sap forced up from the roots, which are not pruned, is concentrated upon a smaller number of shoots. Consequently, each gets more nourishment.
Other reasons for pruning are that branches must be evenly spaced so that light and air can reach the leaves freely and that all dead, diseased or damaged shoots must be removed.
Cutting Back After Planting Roses
The first cutting back done in the spring after planting, of almost all the many classes of roses, is the simplest of all pruning operations.
The aim is to build up a good foundation of stems, so the plants should be cut back hard while young.
Pruning Bush Roses
To achieve this I cut each sturdy growth of a bush rose to within about three buds of its base. These buds, or ‘eyes’ as they are sometimes called, are the points from which new shoots will presently sprout, and they may easily be detected, situated at more or less even distances along every growth and usually marked by the scar of an old leaf stalk.
The buds grow in all directions on the stems and, when pruning, it is always best to make each cut immediately above a bud that is pointing away from the centre of the plant, the object being to encourage the formation of an open centred, roughly goblet-shaped bush.
The shoot growing from any bud will tend to follow the direction in which that bud was originally pointing, and it is the bud to which a branch is pruned that will usually produce the new replacement growth, this time growing in the direction chosen by the pruner.
Pruning Standard Roses
Standard roses are treated just as though they were bushes perched on the top of a tall stick.
Take no account of the standard stem, which does not require any treatment beyond the complete removal of any sucker growths which may come from it. The head of the branches is the portion that must be cut back, and each shoot should be pruned hard in exactly the same manner as I have described for rose bushes.
Pruning Rambling Roses and Climbing Roses
Rambling roses and vigorousare ever easier to deal with and it is not always necessary to make all cuts to outward pointing buds, the shoots in any case having to be trained and tied to supports.
Still, it will help matters if you follow the general policy already outlined and make as many cuts as possible to buds that point in the direction you want the resultant shoots to take.
Roughly speaking, each strong growth on freshly planted ramblers and vigorous climbers should be cut to within 1′ of the ground, while weaker shoots may be shortened to 6 or 9”.
Pruning Climbing Sports Roses
These are the only kind of climbers which are exceptions to this simple rule of general hard pruning in the first season after planting. They are very vigorous forms, termed ‘sports’, of bush roses.
Their strong-growing habit and large, well-formed flowers render them suitable for covering the walls of houses or clothing pillars and arches. But on account of their peculiar origin they have a tendency to revert to the former bush habit and this may be intensified if they are severely pruned. For this reason they must be pruned with caution, and I usually do no more than remove the ends of the shoots which have been damaged in the process of transplanting or by frost, and shorten any weak growths.
The climbing sports roses always carry the prefix ‘climbing’ before their names in catalogues eg, Climbing Etoile de Hollande and Climbing Madame Butterfly – and so they are easy to identify.
In areas which have a normal climate, with no extreme weather conditions at the end of March, all the pruning I have described above for newly planted roses may be done during March.
However, in exceptionally exposed gardens, the first pruning should be delayed until early April.